"Go ahead and screen" - advice to healthcare systems for routine lynch syndrome screening from interviews with newly diagnosed colorectal cancer patients

Hered Cancer Clin Pract. 2023 Nov 17;21(1):24. doi: 10.1186/s13053-023-00270-4.


Background: Lynch syndrome (LS) is the most common cause of inherited colorectal cancer (CRC). Universal tumor screening (UTS) of newly diagnosed CRC cases is recommended to aid in diagnosis of LS and reduce cancer-related morbidity and mortality. However, not all health systems have adopted UTS processes and implementation may be inconsistent due to system and patient-level complexities.

Methods: To identify barriers, facilitators, and suggestions for improvements of the UTS process from the patient perspective, we conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with patients recently diagnosed with CRC, but not screened for or aware of LS. Patients were recruited from eight regionally diverse US health systems. Interviews were conducted by telephone, 60-minutes, audio-recorded, and transcribed. An inductive, constant comparative analysis approach was employed. RESULTS: We completed 75 interviews across the eight systems. Most participants were white (79%), about half (52%) were men, and the mean age was 60 years. Most self-reported either no (60%) or minimal (40%) prior awareness of LS. Overall, 96% of patients stated UTS should be a routine standard of care for CRC tumors, consistently citing four primary motivations for wanting to know their LS status and engage in the process for LS identification: "knowledge is power"; "family knowledge"; "prevention and detection"; and "treatment and surveillance." Common concerns pertaining to the process of screening for and identifying LS included: creating anticipatory worry for patients, the potential cost and the accuracy of the genetic test, and possibly having one's health insurance coverage impacted by the LS diagnosis. Patients suggested health systems communicate LS results in-person or by phone from a trained expert in LS; offer proactive verbal and written education about LS, the screening steps, and any follow-up surveillance recommendations; and support patients in communicating their LS screening to any of their blood relatives.

Conclusion: Our qualitative findings demonstrate patients with CRC have a strong desire for healthcare systems to regularly implement and offer UTS. Patients offer key insights for health systems to guide future implementation and optimization of UTS and other LS screening programs and maximize diagnosis of individuals with LS and improve cancer-related surveillance and outcomes.

Trial registration: Not available: not a clinical trial.

Keywords: Colon cancer; Implementation; Lynch syndrome; Patient perspective; Qualitative; Universal tumor screening.